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Kate Gordon On Clean Energy Policy: We Are ‘Squabbling While Rome Burns’

By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund

The House Natural Resources Committee began its fall agenda today with a hearing on creating jobs through developing offshore and renewable energy resources. The Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Vice President for Energy Policy Kate Gordon was on hand to argue that green jobs are a bright spot in the economy, but warned that this success will not last if we do not create a market within the U.S. for clean energy:

In conclusion, the U.S., frankly, risks squabbling while Rome burns on this issue. The future of energy and the economy lies in cleaner energy solutions. We must embrace that future now or we will risk become the world’s great importers of technology and innovation rather than its leaders. Thank you.

Watch it:

Meanwhile, Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) spent his opening statement describing 10 policies that the President should focus on during his speech on jobs this evening. Seven of the ten policies that Rep. Hastings detailed heavily promote fossil fuels, such as drilling more in the Gulf of Mexico, opening up sensitive places in Alaska to drilling, and developing oil shale resources. (The other three policies that Hastings included on his list relate to renewable energy, but as ThinkProgress previously noted, the solutions that the Republican members put forth on this issue could pose “unintended consequences” to the industry).

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House Republicans continue to promote the mature and highly profitable fossil fuels industry by accusing the Obama Administration of hindering oil and gas development. A report released yesterday by Wood Mackenzie and paid for by the American Petroleum Institute found that opening up more areas to drilling and getting rid of “regulatory burdens” will create 1.4 million jobs by 2030. The Wood Mackenzie witness at today’s hearing expanded on this point by describing how the “current path of policies which slow down the issuance of leases and drilling permits.”

But as Stephen Lacey at ClimateProgress pointed out yesterday, the oil and gas drilling in the U.S. is actively and steadily increasing under this Administration. Headwaters Economics found that U.S. onshore drilling activity was at 91 percent of the 20-year high. And, the U.S. is currently drilling more than anywhere else in the world: today, according to industry research firm Baker Hughes, there are 1,968 oil and gas drill rigs operating in the U.S. and 1,700 rigs operating in the rest of the world combined.

As Gordon said during today’s hearing, this committee’s continued focus on opening up areas to more drilling takes attention away from the real issue at hand — how to maintain our country’s role as a world leader in the clean energy economy. As she discussed in her testimony, clean energy manufacturing jobs are “critical to our long-term competitiveness, because our global leadership depends in part on whether we still make things in America.” But making things in America in part means creating demand here at home, and we are falling behind on this by failing to enact policies that create certainty for renewable energy businesses.

She expanded on this thought by comparing the U.S. clean energy market to those of China and Europe, asking:

All this points to one key question: Do we really want to be in the business of inventing the green technologies of the future, only to end up buying those technologies back from countries that have successfully commercialized, manufactured, and exported those technologies — and come up with successive waves of innovation that they can then also sell back to the United States? Do we want to be the world’s great clean technology consumer, while the rest of the world prospers? Is this the way to strengthen the American economy?

In order to combat this possibility, Gordon suggested that Republicans, who currently set the agenda for the House, focus on policies that ensure consistent demand and financing, such as Clean Energy Standard, extending the Production and Investment Tax Credits, extending the Section 1603 Treasury Grant Progress, establishing a green bank, cash grant program providing grants in lieu of tax credits for renewable energy generation, and supporting more consistent interagency cooperation for onshore and offshore renewable energy development. Additionally, Gordon noted that the Republican budgets, which tremendously slash clean-tech and energy investments, show how “some of America’s political leaders seem intent on crippling us before we have even fully entered the global green jobs race.”